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WRESTLING COLUMNS

The Art of the Real Tag Team
Its Demise in WWE and Rejuvenation In TNA

February 17, 2005 by Langdon Beck


What makes a real tag team"

To be a real tag team, a team should have at least 3 of the following five qualities:

1. A name
2. Matching or similar attire
3. A combined entrance and/or weight
4. Double team moves and/or finisher
5. Long-term partnership

But none of this matters without the essential sixth quality:

6. Chemistry

What is not necessary, though, is singles wrestling ability. A wrestler doesn't have to excel by himself to excel in a team.

Where did it all go wrong" The demise of Real tag team wrestling in the WWE

Cast your mind back to late 2000, or early 2001 - the peak of modern tag team wrestling. The greatest tag team rivalry of modern times, perhaps of all-time, was recovering from the first Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match, and the tag division was going very well indeed.

Aside from the Big Three teams (Edge & Christian, the Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz), there was also the APA, T&A, Too Cool, Kaientai and the Right To Censor faction, with The Mean Street Posse also hanging around on Heat. Towards the end of 2000, Lo Down was formed, the Radicalz reformed, and we had the first incarnation of the 3-Live Kru in K-Kwik and Road Dogg. Each one of these teams was either a Real tag team or had the potential to be (i.e. Lo Down, who had no hope once Tiger Ali Singh started managing them, and K-Kwik & Road Dogg, whose team dispersed when Road Dogg was fired). Nothing, it would seem, could mess this division up. Even adding Rhyno and Spike to the E&C and Dudley stables respectively did nothing but good things (the two of them, plus Lita, helping make TLC II arguably better than the first match). So where DID it all go wrong"

There are three possibilities:

1. The aftermath of WrestleMania X-Seven --- By the big show (no pun intended), the division was slightly different. Aside from Rhyno, Road Dogg and Spike, the Mean Street Posse had disappeared to OVW, never to be seen again, Lo Down had faded into nothingness, Chris Benoit had left the Radicalz, and T&A were no more, although Albert was now in a new group named X-Factor. After 'Mania, it was slightly chaotic. Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H had formed an alliance, and soon won the World Tag Team titles from Undertaker & Kane, later to lose the belts to Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho. During this time, the major tag team battles involved main-eventers, and there was little room for Real tag teams. The Dudleyz and E&C were still around, but involved in minor rivalries or storylines like the Spike and Molly saga. The Hardy Boyz had taken a foray into singles action, with Jeff competing in the Light Heavyweight division and Matt reigning as European Champion. X-Pac was also a Light Heavyweight Champion in this time, making X-Factor slightly pointless, even more so when Justin Credible joined the Alliance (more on that later). APA was barely wrestling, Kaientai were resigned to Heat or Metal, and the Radicalz now comprised of Saturn & Malenko. Too Cool had split due to a Scotty 2 Hotty injury and Grand Master Sexay's firing, and Right To Censor had faded away. This was the first nail in the proverbial coffin for tag team wrestling, but there could have been hope had it not been for...

2. The Invasion --- When the WCW/ECW Alliance was formed, it meant there were twice as many wrestlers in the company, and this meant that to fit them all on the shows, singles stars had to be partnered together, meaning less room for Real tag teams. The return of ECW plus WWE defections into the Alliance meant break up of teams like X-Factor (who lingered as a duo before X-Pac disappeared in October 2001) and Edge & Christian. Theoretically, the Invasion could have been good for the tag team division - it brought along new teams like Palumbo & O'Haire and - albeit very briefly - Kronik. But it also brought the WCW Tag Team Titles, and over the following few months it all became very confusing. It's difficult to remember who was which tag champion when and for how long. But this does not matter, as many tag team champions during the Invasion were of the two-singles-guys-randomly-together persuasion as opposed to an actual tag team, whether it be for storyline purposes (see The Rock & Chris Jericho) or for convenience (DDP & Kanyon, Booker T & Test, Big Show & Spike Dudley, Lance Storm & Hurricane etc). Real tag teams had to settle for being in the background a lot of the time, and teams at the forefront didn't get a whole lot of chance to become a better team before the Invasion ended.

3. The Brand Extension --- Once the Invasion was over, and the dust had settled, it was time to get back to business-as-usual. Unfortunately, most Real teams had either broken up (E&C), had one member leave (Kaientai), or disappear from RAW and SmackDown! for periods of time (the Hardyz). This, along with the still unfortunate problem of there being twice as many wrestlers as pre-Invasion, meant that many tag teams that were around between the Invasion and the brand extension were again of the two-singles-guys-pushed-together variety, examples being Spike & Tazz and Albert & Scotty.

The Hardy Boyz, Dudley Boyz, APA, and the newly-formed Billy & Chuck were basically all that remained of Real tag teams (there was the nWo, but the less said of that the better). Any chance of resurgence in the division was stopped by the brand extension.

The Dudleyz and APA were broken up, and Billy & Chuck (along with the World Tag Team Titles) went to SmackDown!. This was odd, as they were just about the ONLY team on the show.

In my opinion, the brand extension was the death of the Real tag team. Tandems barely teamed for more than a year, often being broken up just to add another feud to a show, and although some teams with real potential appeared, like 3-Minute Warning and the World's Greatest Tag Team, it was not to be. Even the addition of a second Tag title didn't help. The tag team division in the WWE was dead. Or maybe not...

By early 2004, the division had been rebuilt and was beginning to gather momentum again, with the FBI, Cade & Jindrak, WGTT, Kyo Dai, La Résistance, etc. But then came a Draft Lottery, and somehow all these teams managed to be broken up in one way or another, and the division went down the drain. Again.

Even now, WWE seems not to understand that two singles stars randomly put together do not a great tag team make. Some recent tandems such as Rob Van Dam and Rey Mysterio are entertaining in the short term, but when you see them you think of two singles guys teaming together. WWE tends to use the Tag division as somewhere for wrestlers to go when nobody can think of a storyline for them (Rob Van Dam & Booker T, René Duprée & Kenzo Suzuki, Rhyno & Tajiri, etc). When they latch onto something good tag-wise, the team is unceremoniously broken apart for no clear reason other than to repeat the "former partners now enemies" storyline. Let's have a look in more depth at the current tag team scene in the company.

The Current Tag Team Division In The WWE - not a patch on its former self

RAW

William Regal and Tajiri: Not a Real tag team by any stretch. Any team that wins the titles on their first match teaming together cannot be considered more than makeshift. I know they briefly worked together in 2001, but today, they are not a Real team.

La Résistance: Yes. Combined entrance, double team finisher, long term capability, they have it all. One of the few Real teams around today, with one of the only remaining tag team specialists in WWE, Sylvain Grenier.

Hurricane & Rosey: Definitely a Real tag team - the fact they've been together for over 18 months without being broken up, and without a title win, is testament to that. Rosey is another tag team specialist, and while Hurricane could flourish in singles competition, he and Rosey definitely have chemistry and innovation on their side, as shown by their double-team moves and backstage vignettes.

Christian & Tyson Tomko: Not so much a tag team, intrinsically a singles wrestler and his muscle who occasionally team together. Even Christian himself does not consider Tomko his tag partner, saying so on a recent Byte This.

So on RAW there are two Real tag teams.

SmackDown!

Rey Mysterio & Eddie Guerrero: The epitome of a 'makeshift team'.

The Basham Brothers: Can be considered a Real tag team since debuting in WWE - however, they were rivals beforehand. The Bashams were the last of the "to-be-a-team-we-have-to-make-you-brothers" philosophy, and all they need is some double-team moves.

The Dudleys: The best Real tag team in the WWE right now, and they're in OVW! The only team in the promotion where both members are tag team specialists.

It would appear there are also two Real teams on SmackDown (three if you count the possibly-soon-to-debut Shane Twins), but since the Dudleys are in OVW, that just leaves the Bashams.

Developmental territory OVW, on the other hand, has a great tag team division, with The Heartbreakers, M-N-M, The Thrillseekers and the Blonde Bombers among the tag teams there. Bringing some of these teams up to RAW or SmackDown would certainly help either tag division. As long as the teams aren't broken up, as with the Disciples of Synn, then it should be beneficial and not detrimental to the company. For those who don't know OVW, the Disciples of Synn were a Gothic-style team, individual names Travis Bane and Seven. They were both called up to WWE, but on separate shows. Bane become Tyson Tomko and has so far not achieved a whole lot. Seven went to SmackDown as Mordecai, and didn't do a whole lot either.

However, a problem arises with the fact that certain members of some OVW teams, like the Heartbreakers or the Jersey Shore Crew, do not actually have a WWE developmental contract, and WWE seems in no hurry to dish them out.

So with the WWE tag team divisions in disarray, where can the fan of the Real tag team go" There are indies like ROH, but a more mainstream solution is...

The Rejuvenation - Tag Team Wrestling in TNA

There are several things at present that TNA does better than WWE. The X-Division is one; consistently good Pay Per Views are another. Then there's the tag team division. TNA is brimming with Real tag teams, and for fans of tag team wrestling there's no contest between TNA and WWE.

Right at the top of the heap are the current NWA World Tag Team Champions, America's Most Wanted, a team that could end up as one of the greatest of the last twenty years.

There are The Naturals, who have the potential to be as good as AMW.

Road Dogg and K-Kwik return as BG James and The Truth in the latest incarnation of the 3-Live Kru, the best tag trio around today.

Team Canada in the form of Bobby Roode and Eric Young need some enhancement but are well on their way to being a bona fide Real tag team.

Jerrelle Clark and Mikey Batts, Kid Kash & Lance Hoyt, the list goes on, and the additions of Phi Delta Slam and the Disciples of Destruction to the roster make TNA's tag division one of the best for several years. If TNA keeps its focus on the things it currently does best, then we could see the art of tag team wrestling return to the high-profile status it deserves.

by Langdon Beck --- [View Langdon Beck's Column Index]..
Sean Youins-Martin wrote:
Am I the only fan left who mourns the loss of the truly great tag team" In recent years we have been forced to put up with sub par tag teams (too many to list but Superheroes and La Resistance) or make shift Tag teams (any combination of Edge , Rey Misterio, Christ Benoit, Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Rob Van Dam or any one of half a dozen superstars that is treading water and wants a shot at a belt - any belt.).

Whatever happened to the truly great WWF/E tag teams such as The Hart Foundation, The British Bulldogs, Demolition, The Headshrinkers, the APA, The New Age Outlaws, E&C, The Hardy's and the Dudleys

Or great WCW teams like the Horsemen, the Midnight Express, The Freebirds, The Road Warrirors, The Steiners, Doom and the Samoan Swat team"

It seems like every major federation had a great tag team division but didn't develop new teams when the older ones left or split. I did hold out some hope for WCW when they introduced some good new times like Kronik, Palumbo and Stasiac, Jindrak & O'Haire and the Outsiders, and the WWF gave the Hardy's a push, brought us the New Age Outlaws, made E&C into a good team and let the Dudleys run wild but it didn't last. To this day one of my all time favourite matches is from Halloween Havoc 90 when the Nasty boys tried to take the US titles from the Steiners and we Had a fantastic but short brutal match. Personally I don't think there is any Finish that is better to watch than a signature tag finisher like the Elimination, The doomsday device, the heartbreaker, or any one of a dozen that the steiners Used to use.

Lucky for the Tag Team fans out there it looks like NWA;TNA is hoping to provide us with some truly great times. We already have AMW, The Naturals, 3LK, Team Canada and the Disciples of Destruction. I just hope that they continue the trend as Vince McMahon seems to genuinely dislike real Tag teams, he has either broken up or tampered with every decent team ever to pass through the WWE.

I remember when I first started watching wrestling in the mid 80's, every supercard Had 2 -3 decent tag matches on them and when the alternative was Radioactive Baldie (Hogan to everyone else) against someone without a hope of getting the world title away from him, then the Tag matches were infinitely more entertaining.

Occasionally a hybrid tag team of two superstars thrown together works (Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho, Austin and HHH, Foley and the Rock or Owen Hart with anyone) but On the whole you usually end up with two competing egos and it is normally a set up for an angle between the two down the line.

I know that most of the great teams are either too old now, retired or sadly have members that have passed away but there must be more people out there like : - Chris Harris & James Storm, Chase Stevens and Andy Douglas, the guys in 3LK and the Dudleys over In WWE that enjoy being a tag team and looking out for a partners interest as well as their own.

Who could honestly say that they would enjoy a card of purely singles and gimmick matches" I for one wouldn't pay my hard earned money to see one.
Joe Joe wrote:
Chikara just had a 32 team tournament and ROH just had a 12 team trios tournament so there is still good tag wrestling out there, you just aren't looking in the right place.
Ian Wilz wrote:
I just had one comment on the comments abotu teh Basham Brothers in this article.

The Basham Brothers: Can be considered a Real tag team since debuting in WWE - however, they were rivals beforehand. The Bashams were the last of the "to-be-a-team-we-have-to-make-you-brothers" philosophy, and all they need is some double-team moves.

Yes they were brought up as brothers to get in the WWE and yes they were rivals in OVW but they were also a tag team for a while in the group Revolution before feuding for teh last time, so bringing them up as a tag team isnt so far fetched...teh timeing was just off with their OVCW storyline.

As for other teams, yes WWE needs to think more before breaking up teams from OVW with chemistry to bring them up as singles guys.

Not only would Tomko and Seven made a great team (and a great faction with Kane...AFTERMATH is the name I give them in my efed) but now they brough up Chris Masters who was in a very successful tag team in OVW as well as a singles guy. They could have brought Masters and Brent Albright up as Kurt Angles new proteges and I think it would have worked out very nicely for them.

WWE also made the mistake of bringin in Aaron Aguilera (Jesus) as a singles guy when he was one of the most successful tag team guys in UPW, who WWE has a very good working relationship with. They should have kept him as teh Hardcore Kidd and brought him in with one of his partners as Hardcore, Inc. They also need to take a good look at some of the other teams in UPW that have been around for awhile.

Its nice to see MNM touring as a team with teh SMACKdown brand but I think they also need to bring up teh Thrillseekers (Cappotelli/Jeter) with HBK or Y2J as their mentor...I say HBK becuase they look like a young Rockers team and could big for WWE.
Michael B Case wrote:
Tag team wrestling surely is a lost art. I have said for awhile now how terrible it is that tag wrestling is all but gone. I have seen the comments and they all were pretty on the mark. But the statement that the Rockers were all that.." The greatest tag team of all time, and for you young heads reading this, do yourself a favor and look em up...were the Road Warriors. Long before their days in WWF they were out breakin necks and cashin checks. They had it all, Hawk was the finesse and Animal brute strength. They had the look and they had the best entrance of alltime. The Legion of Doom beat them all and inspired a host of would be imitators, the most apparent being Demolition. Lately, the most promising team I had seen was Kronik. Big guys with a common goal...destruction. But WWE once again misused two talents and let them go weeks after the WCW merger. Yes, truly, tag wrestling is a lost art. And one more thing, in a related comment someone said who was pound for pound stronger than the Barbarian. Well Animal was no slouch. But hello...Have you ever heard of Lex Lugar" At a "small" 6 foot 3 and 250 pounds, this guy racked the 7 foot 3 and 450 pound Giant (Big Show), he racked 7 foot tall and 350 pound Nash and oh yea, I saw him rack the 600 pound Yokozuna. In all three cases, check the tapes, he didn't just hoist em up fireman's carry style, he scooped them up and carried them around the ring...That's power.
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